Isola dei Cavoli, How to Visit, Experiences and Accomodation

The Isola dei Cavoli emerges as a hidden gem in the heart of the Mediterranean, located less than a kilometer southeast of Capo Carbonara, in Sardinia. This small granite island, with an area of just 0.4 square kilometers, represents a paradise where history, nature, and culture blend in perfect harmony.

Isola dei Cavoli: Overview

Isola dei Cavoli

Isola dei Cavoli is a place that offers visitors a unique and pristine experience. Its rugged coasts hide picturesque inlets, each with its own unique story and name, many of which were given by the lighthouse keepers who lived there in the twentieth century.

The name of the island has two possible origins: one referring to crabs, called “càvarus” in Sardinian, and the other derived from the endemic presence of wild cabbage plants that grow abundantly on its territory. This island, once inhabited by lighthouse keepers and their families, is now a botanical and zoological research center managed by the Faculty of Biology at the University of Cagliari.

Tourist Experiences

Isola dei Cavoli offers a range of tourist experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and rich history of the island. One of the most popular and rewarding activities is undoubtedly scuba diving, which offers a unique perspective on the island’s hidden wonders.

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Scuba Diving

Isola dei Cavoli is a paradise for diving enthusiasts, offering a variety of diving sites that promise unforgettable underwater adventures.

Marine Depths

The marine depths around Isola dei Cavoli are a true hidden treasure, offering a breathtaking view of a rich and colorful underwater world. The granite rock formations create a unique underwater landscape, with caves, crevices, and nooks that provide refuge to a variety of marine species.

The crystal-clear waters allow for excellent visibility, making every dive a visually extraordinary experience. Visitors can expect to see a range of coral formations, seagrass beds, and a variety of underwater habitats that host a rich marine biodiversity.

Flora and Fauna

The marine flora and fauna around Isola dei Cavoli are among the richest and most diverse in the Mediterranean. Diving enthusiasts can expect to encounter a variety of marine species, including colorful fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and a range of other marine creatures.

Common species include barracudas, known for their elegance and speed, and dolphins, which can often be spotted playing in the surrounding waters. The seagrass beds, an endemic marine plant of the Mediterranean, create a vital habitat for many marine species, acting as nurseries for young fish and providing nourishment to a variety of marine organisms.

Diving around Isola dei Cavoli offers a unique opportunity to connect with a vibrant and pristine marine ecosystem, where each dive promises new discoveries and adventures in an underwater world of unparalleled beauty.

La Festa della Vergine del Mare

La Festa della Vergine del Mare is one of the most anticipated and celebrated events on Isola dei Cavoli, an occasion where faith, tradition, and culture meet in a vibrant and colorful celebration that unites local communities in an act of devotion and festivity. The festival typically starts from Villasimius and then reaches Isola dei Cavoli.

History and Meaning

La Festa della Vergine del Mare has deep roots in local history and culture. Celebrated every year on September 8, the festival is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, protector of sailors and patroness of the island. This religious celebration aims to honor the Virgin Mary and seek her protection and blessing for sailors and their families.

The festival also has a deeper meaning, serving as a moment of unity and communion for local communities. It is an opportunity to strengthen community ties and celebrate faith and tradition together, in an atmosphere of joy and spirituality.

Main Attractions

Isola dei Cavoli, with its natural beauty and rich historical heritage, offers a range of main attractions that fascinate and enchant visitors from around the world.

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The Lighthouse

The lighthouse on Isola dei Cavoli is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the island, a monument that stands proudly, witnessing the passage of time and the different historical eras the island has experienced.

History and Architecture

Built in 1856, the lighthouse is an imposing structure that combines architectural elements from different eras. Its base incorporates a Spanish defensive tower dating back to 1591, a robust and majestic structure that served as a defense point against pirate raids. Over the years, the lighthouse has been expanded and modified, transforming it into a vital nautical landmark for ships navigating these waters.

The architecture of the lighthouse is a testament to the fusion of different styles and historical periods, with its granite structure standing as a bulwark against time. Its imposing presence on the island’s landscape offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding sea, making it an ideal place to reflect on the island’s deep history and natural beauty.

Role of the Lighthouse Keepers

The role of the lighthouse keepers, the personnel responsible for the maintenance and operation of the lighthouse, is an integral part of the history of Isola dei Cavoli. Throughout the twentieth century, the lighthouse keepers and their families lived on the island, ensuring the regular functioning of the lighthouse and the safety of passing ships.

The life of the lighthouse keepers on the island was characterized by a daily routine of maintaining the lighthouse, in addition to ensuring that the lighthouse light was always on during the night. This crucial role not only ensured the safety of maritime navigation but also helped to preserve the island’s rich history and cultural heritage.

The lighthouse keepers, along with their families, formed a small isolated community, living a simple and peaceful life in harmony with the surrounding nature. Their stories and experiences have added another layer of charm and mystery to Isola dei Cavoli, making it a place where history lives and breathes in every corner.

The Inlets

Isola dei Cavoli, with its rugged and pristine coasts, hosts a series of picturesque inlets that offer not only breathtaking natural beauty but also a rich tapestry of stories and legends that awaken the curiosity and imagination of every visitor.

Description of the Main Bays and Inlets

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The island is famous for its hidden bays and inlets that offer refuge and tranquility in an untouched natural environment. Some of the most well-known inlets include:

  • Cala di Ponente: This western inlet is known for its crystal-clear waters and fine sandy beaches, offering a perfect place for relaxation and swimming.
  • Cala del Morto: A place shrouded in mystery, this cove is surrounded by imposing cliffs and deep waters, creating an isolated and tranquil environment.
  • Cala del Ceppo: Characterized by unique rock formations, this cove offers a spectacular view of the open sea, making it an ideal spot for marine wildlife observation and scuba diving.
  • Cala di Scasciu: Known for its calm waters and natural beauty, this inlet offers a perfect refuge for a relaxing day at the sea.

Stories and Legends Associated

Each inlet on Isola dei Cavoli carries a series of stories and legends that add a unique and mysterious charm to these natural places. The stories told by the old inhabitants of the island and the lighthouse keepers who lived there in the twentieth century, speak of romantic adventures, mysterious encounters, and legends of hidden treasures.

For example, Cala del Morto, with its evocative name, is at the center of numerous local legends, some of which talk about spirits and ghosts wandering its cliffs, while others tell of hidden treasures and pirate adventures.

These stories and legends, passed down from generation to generation, add an additional layer of charm and mystery to these inlets, making each visit a unique experience, where nature and history blend in a harmonious ballet of beauty and mystery.

Where To Stay

Here are some hotels near Isola dei Cavoli in Villasimius, selected based on their proximity and unique features:

  1. Residence I Borghi – La Collina: This residence is selected for its proximity to Isola dei Cavoli and its tranquil setting, providing guests with a peaceful retreat close to the island. The residence offers a relaxing environment for visitors to enjoy their stay.
  2. Hotel Blu Marlin: This hotel is chosen for its close proximity to Isola dei Cavoli and its beachfront location, allowing guests to easily access the island and enjoy the stunning coastal views. The hotel provides a convenient and picturesque setting for travelers.
  3. Falkensteiner Resort Capo Boi: This resort is selected for its proximity to Isola dei Cavoli and its luxurious amenities, offering guests a high-end accommodation option near the island. The resort provides a range of facilities and services to ensure a comfortable and memorable stay.
  4. Hotel Villa del Mare: This hotel is chosen for its convenient location near Isola dei Cavoli, even tough it is located a little bit further than the others (in Solanas, a really nice location close to Villasimius). Guests can enjoy a comfortable stay with amenities that cater to their needs.

Geographic and Cultural Importance

Geographically, Isola dei Cavoli represents the last emerged part of the granitic complex of southeastern Sardinia, separated from the mainland about 10-12 thousand years ago due to rising sea levels. Its strategic location has made the island an important reference point throughout history, hosting a lighthouse built in 1856, which incorporates a Spanish defensive tower dating back to 1591.

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From a cultural standpoint, the island is a place rich with stories and legends, adding a mysterious charm to its natural beauty. Every year, on September 8, the island becomes the center of a religious festival in honor of the Virgin of the sea, attracting a procession of boats and traditional celebrations that culminate with songs and dances in costume. This festival not only celebrates the protector of sailors but also unites local communities in a celebration of faith and tradition.

The island is a paradise for diving enthusiasts, offering rocky seabeds rich in marine flora and fauna, and crystal-clear waters that host a variety of marine species, making each dive a unique and unforgettable adventure.

Through its rich biodiversity, cultural traditions, and fascinating history, Isola dei Cavoli presents itself as a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Sardinia, promising an experience that goes beyond a simple tourist visit, immersing visitors in a world where nature and culture coexist in perfect harmony.

History and Legends

Isola dei Cavoli is shrouded in a mist of fascinating stories and legends that date back centuries, making every corner of the island a living chapter of its rich and colorful history.

Origin of the Name

The origin of the name “Isola dei Cavoli” is shrouded in mystery, with two predominant theories seeking to explain its etymology.

The first theory suggests that the name derives from the Sardinian term “càvurus,” meaning crabs, a species abundant in the waters surrounding the island.
The second theory refers to the endemic presence of wild cabbage plants that grow lushly on the island’s territory, giving the place a green and lush appearance.
These two theories, although different, both represent the rich biodiversity of the island, both marine and terrestrial.

The Legend of the Lighthouse Keeper

Among the many stories surrounding Isola dei Cavoli, the legend of the lighthouse keeper holds a prominent place. It is said that in the 1930s, a lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the island, guarding the lighthouse and ensuring the safety of ships navigating nearby. The isolated life and breathtaking beauty of the island have given rise to numerous stories and legends, some of which speak of romantic adventures and mysterious encounters, while others tell of a peaceful and harmonious life in tune with nature.

History of the Lighthouse and the Spanish Defensive Tower

The lighthouse on Isola dei Cavoli is a historical structure dating back to 1856, an important landmark for ships traversing this part of the Mediterranean. This structure incorporates a Spanish defensive tower built in 1591, witnessing the different historical phases the island has gone through. The tower, with its thick walls and strategic location, served as a lookout and defense point against pirate raids that were common during that period.

Over time, the lighthouse has become more than just a navigation point; it has become a symbol of the island’s rich and colorful history, a witness to centuries of changes and evolutions. Now, the lighthouse not only guides ships but also visitors, offering them a taste of the deep history and traditions that make Isola dei Cavoli such a special and unique place.


Isola dei Cavoli is located off the southeastern coast of Sardinia, specifically opposite the renowned seaside resort of Villasimius. The island is an important landmark within the Capo Carbonara Marine Protected Area, a region dedicated to the conservation of the rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the area.

How to Reach Isola dei Cavoli

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Isola dei Cavoli, located a short distance from the southeastern coast of Sardinia, is easily accessible through various means of transport. Here’s a guide on how to reach this beautiful corner of paradise:

By Boat

The most popular and direct way to reach Isola dei Cavoli is by boat. Several tour operators offer daily excursions to the island from Villasimius, a nearby town on the coast. These excursions not only provide a convenient way to reach the island but often include guided tours that allow you to explore the island’s natural and historical beauties.

Private Rental

For those who prefer a more personalized visit, it is possible to rent private boats from Villasimius or other nearby locations. This allows for greater flexibility in planning your itinerary, enabling you to explore the island at your own pace.

By Kayak

For adventurers, reaching Isola dei Cavoli by kayak offers a unique and exciting experience. This method allows not only to enjoy the scenic beauties during the journey but also to access more remote coves and inlets of the island. However, it is recommended only for those who have some experience in kayaking and are prepared for a longer paddle.

Departure Points

The main departure points to reach Isola dei Cavoli are:

  • Villasimius: Located about 8 km from Isola dei Cavoli, it is the most common starting point for excursions to the island.
  • Costa Rei: Another popular departure location, situated a bit further north of Villasimius.

Useful Tips

  • Advance Booking: During the tourist season, it is advisable to book excursions in advance to ensure availability.
  • Equipment: Do not forget to bring all the necessary equipment for a day at the sea, including hats, sunscreen, and water.
  • Respect for the Environment: Remember to respect the natural environment of the island, avoiding leaving waste or damaging the local flora and fauna.

Flora and Fauna

Isola dei Cavoli is a natural sanctuary where flora and fauna thrive in an untouched environment, offering a spectacular view of Mediterranean biodiversity.

Island Biodiversity

The island is a true gem of biodiversity, hosting a variety of ecosystems both terrestrial and marine. The flora on the island is characterized by the presence of endemic plants, including the wild cabbage plants that give the island its name. These plants, along with other species of the Mediterranean scrub, create a lush and verdant landscape that enchants every visitor.

The crystal-clear waters surrounding the island are equally rich in life, hosting a variety of marine species, including dolphins and barracuda. The rocky seabeds of the island are the ideal place for observing a wide range of marine fauna, making every dive an exploratory adventure of its own kind.

Research Center of the Faculty of Biology, University of Cagliari

Isola dei Cavoli is not only a tourist destination but also an important scientific research center. The Faculty of Biology at the University of Cagliari has established a research center here dedicated to studying the biodiversity of the island and its surrounding waters.

The research center plays a crucial role in conserving the unique environment of the island, conducting studies and research to monitor the health of the island’s ecosystems and develop strategies for their preservation. Scientists and researchers at the center conduct a range of research projects, studying everything from the dynamics of marine populations to ecological interactions occurring on the island.

This research center not only contributes to the scientific understanding of the island’s biodiversity but also serves as a living reminder of the importance of conservation and protection of natural environments. Through their work, the center helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty and natural richness of Isola dei Cavoli, preserving its status as a natural sanctuary in the heart of the Mediterranean.

Visiting Isola dei Cavoli

Isola dei Cavoli stands as a living monument to the cultural and natural richness that the Mediterranean has to offer. Every corner of the island tells a story, every inlet hides a legend, and every annual event brings a community together in a celebration of faith and tradition.

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The island is a treasure trove of biodiversity, a sanctuary where flora and fauna thrive in harmony. Its history, steeped in legends and tales of times past, adds a mysterious charm that invites visitors to explore and discover its hidden wonders.

The local culture, enriched by centuries of traditions and festivities, offers a deep and authentic view of Sardinian life.

Beyond its aesthetic beauty, Isola dei Cavoli serves as a living reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainability. Its rich biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, underscores the need to protect and preserve these unique environments for future generations.

In this spirit, we invite all visitors to approach Isola dei Cavoli with respect and consideration for its delicate environment. We encourage you to explore its natural and cultural beauties.

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